Film and advertisement music director, composer and producer, Karan Kulkarni, is known for his work in ‘Tumhari Sullu’, ‘Shahid’, ‘Sacred Games’ and Marathi film, ‘Happy Journey’.
Having worked with directors like Anurag Kashyap, Prakash Varma, Kishore Iyyar, Prasoon Pandey and Abhinay Deo, Karan has carved a place for himself in the industry. A number of his television commercial works have been awarded by various advertising organisations.
His work ‘Peddlers’, ‘Aligarh’, ‘Shahid’ and ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ have been featured in four Indian entries at Cannes and Toronto (TIFF).
In a conversation with Surupasree Sarmmah, Karan throws light on the challenges he faces as a music composer, his experience of working with Amit Trivedi and more.
What interested you to be part of this industry?
I’ve always been interested in music and have been studying and working in music for a while. It was probably the idea of being a musician and the lifestyle one imagines that comes with it, seemed enticing when I was younger.
But as I started studying more (and I still do), I started to realise there’s a lot more to it. Just being able to make music and the joy it brings is the true reward. That said, it’s also to make a living, doing something I love.
What are the challenges involved?
The growing celebration of mediocrity and its consequences. There is exceptional talent around. But a lot of great music doesn’t see the light of day. To make things better an equal understanding of your product is required, to do business. If your product is music, it’s advisable to actually know something about it.
How old were you when you started composing music?
Ever since I started playing guitar. I was probably 15 or 16 then; I would start to play variations or little improvisations using the things I’ve learned. Wanting to create seems to come naturally to me.
Do you remember your first composition?
When I first began playing the guitar, I would play for hours every day. There were a lot of little ideas and songs I wrote back then. I have written poetry since I was a child, so I began incorporating a lot of those ideas lyrically. But I think I’ve lost a lot of those ideas in hard drive crashes and the limited memory of my brain, over the years.Your work has been featured in international film festivals like Cannes and Toronto (TIFF).
Is there a kind of pressure that is built to produce more good work?
It’s a great feeling to know that my work is appreciated internationally. It’s encouraging to know that people have been accepting modern Indian cinema and music, overseas. The only pressure to produce good work is from your own mind. It is a good kind of pressure though. I’m constantly trying to reinvent, improve and try something else.
Are you a genre-specific composer or do you like to experiment with your music?
To be doing the same thing every day would be the end of me. Part of being a producer and composer is being able to do multiple things well. Switching between genres and playing different roles within the music industry is what keeps things interesting and challenging.
You have also assisted Amit Trivedi in movies like ‘Ishaq Zaade’, ‘English Vinglish’ and ‘Ek Main Aur Ek Tu’. How was that experience?
After I returned from Australia, having done a music production degree, I assisted Amit Trivedi. The things I studied and was working on were probably a little too experimental at that time, with regards to mainstream music here. Working with Amit helped me to understand the way things work in our industry better. He is prolific and amazing at his work, just watching him make music and being part of his creative process, was really helpful.
A musician you would like to collaborate with?
It’s hard to collaborate with someone you look up to, as an idol. I just feel like I’d want to learn from them and watch them do their thing. I’d say Freddie Mercury, but it would really be a scam, so I could watch him work (laughs).
Which part of the house do you get most of your ideas for a song?
It’s always better outdoors. Balconies with a good view are good too. But any room with a good vibe and good wine is perfect for me.
As a young music composer, how do you see the current scenario of the Indian music industry? Do you think most music composers are now rehashing old melody?
Music has been covered and re-interpreted since times immemorial. I don’t really see a problem with someone re-contextualising older tunes in their own way. That said, there are a lot of talented people around, that can make good, unique and original music. A lot of that music is stopped from seeing the light of day. I meet a lot of listeners who really want more variety in mainstream music. Playing safe all the time just leads to homogeneity in the industry. The ideal situation would be to support and promote both equally.